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Where are the oldest sections of the Milky Way?

  1. Mar 27, 2016 #1
    I'm partial to Alan Dean Foster's Commonwealth Series.One of the features of that series are extinct species who one ruled the galaxy. The first book in the series, The Tar-Aiym Krang, is about an artifact that is several million years old--and still functional. The End of the Matter is also about an artifact, and archaeological sites abound in the series.

    The Commonwealth series is not the only story or set of stories where ancient species and archaeology abound, Several of you might have other books that are favorites dealing with this trope. The question that intrigues me professionally is: "Where would species much older than humanity be found? One logical place to start is on planets and in star systems that are millions of years older than ours. Which brings me to my question: are there sections of the galaxy that are older than our immediate neighborhood, and where are those sections to be found?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 28, 2016 #2

    mfb

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    Millions of years are nothing on cosmological timescales.
    Older stars (as in: billions of years) are around everywhere, within the galactic disk there are no parts that would be "older" or "younger" in general. Not that you would need it for such a story - life on Earth needed billions of years to evolve until a species was able to go to space. You could easily imagine this process to be a few million years slower or faster on other planets.
     
  4. Mar 28, 2016 #3
    I was wondering if that might be the wrong question to ask. But, if you don't ask you don't find out. Another thought that occurs to me is that star systems that are billions of years older than ours would be at the end of their star's lifecycle. Egyptious may have orbited a star that has long since gone nova.

    Technology is also not necessarily based on some sort of linear timeline. The ancient Greeks experimented with steam power. There were cultural reasons why they didn't go from there to the locomotive, but there are no physical reasons why they couldn't have.
     
  5. Mar 28, 2016 #4

    mfb

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    Our sun will make Earth inhabitable within about 1 to 1.5 billion years, but it will continue to be a main-sequence star for a few billion years.
    Smaller stars live longer. Getting twice the lifetime of sun with a nice habitable planet is no problem.
     
  6. Mar 28, 2016 #5
    Another thought that occurs to me is that the world of a truly old civilization may have ended its tectonic sequence and the atmosphere may have finally dissipated. Though a really advanced race like the Tar-Aiym would probably be able to "fix" that if they were feeling sentimental.
     
  7. Mar 29, 2016 #6
    There is a maximum theoretical age a civilization could be. I think it's something like 5 billion years old (it'd take about 8 billion for the universe to produce enough raw materials for life.) I would imagine with the progress of even one billion years, your home star going nova is of little consequence. If we extrapolate our own progress over that time scale, our technology would essentially make us gods.

    I have a feeling that once humans develop the technology to really explore space in depth, finding derelict ships and civilizations over a million years old would be much more common than finding a young one. There is no reason that we evolved when we did, on a cosmological scale, we're a blink of an eye away from the dinosaurs.

    Advanced species could probably build self-maintaining systems that last millions or even billions of years.
     
  8. Mar 29, 2016 #7
    I was thinking more in terms of finding the ruins of a civilization more than the civilization itself. No matter how advanced we become if we split the sun going nova is still going to be hell on the Coliseum. I have an idea for a space opera where very old and very advanced aliens in essence escape into a parallel universe they tailor to their desires. They aren't very concerned what happens to the old, home world.
     
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